March 4, 2018 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause
March 4, 2018
Fr. George Smiga
Father Fred planned his usual approach for his homily on Christmas morning. He would call up all the small children and have them sit on the floor around him. Then he would retell the story of Jesus’ birth. Father Fred was convinced that when the assembly saw the joy and the delight in the children’s faces as they heard about shepherds and angels, they would leave with a deeper sense of the truth and the holiness of Christmas. All was going well until about halfway through his homily. A seven-year old boy named Jake stood up and with clenched fists cried out, “I hate my Dad!” The assembly gasped. Father Fred froze. Jake’s older brother tried to pull him down to keep him quiet. But Jake broke away and continued, “My dad promised he would be with us on Christmas, but this morning when I woke up he was not there. He made my mother cry. I hate him! He is a big fat liar.”
Father Fred was speechless, but he also realized that the liturgy was slipping out of control. He had to do something. So he did. Based on an instinct honed by over thirty years of priestly ministry and personal knowledge of Jake’s family, he reached out and placed Jake in his lap, holding him tightly. Jake held on to the priest, crying uncontrollably. Then when Father Fred found his voice, he said to Jake in a loud whisper, “Jake, Jake, you are so upset only because you love your father so much.” At the word “love” Jake relaxed and became silent. Father Fred was able to finish the mass and dismiss the assembly. But, looking back on that Christmas morning he realized that he had attained his objective. The mass was not what he thought it would be. It was violent and disruptive. But because he was able to speak the truth—the truth that anger flows not from hate but from love—people went home with a deeper sense of the truth and the holiness of Jesus’ birth.
When we come before the Lord, we must come in truth. Our aim is not to be polite, but to be honest. Therefore, we must come as the people we are. Jesus demonstrates this in today’s gospel. When he enters the temple, he sees something that disturbs him and he becomes angry. But his anger does not flow from hatred of the temple or hatred of people in the temple. His anger flows from his love for his Father’s house.
Jesus calls us to follow his example, to stand before the Lord in truth, because God wants us as the people we are. Sometimes I run into parishioners who have recently experienced the death of a loved one. They tell me that they are not coming to church, because they afraid that they will cry. I tell them, “What better place is there to cry than in church? Your tears and your sorrow are precious to God. So come, cry before the Lord and ask for God’s healing.” We should also bring our anger to church— anger because of the irresolvable difficulties we have in our families, because of sexual abuse within the clergy, because of growing violence in our country as demonstrated by the recent shootings in our schools and in our public gatherings. What better place to bring our anger than to the Lord who already knows our pain and can help us.
We should bring our sorrow and our anger to the Lord because we must pray as the people we are, not the people we would like to be. So this is our parish church, bring your sorrow and bring your anger here. (I just ask you not to follow Jesus’ example and overturn the furniture.) But, come as the people you are. Stand before the Lord in truth, because it is only when we express our sorrow and anger to the Lord in prayer that we will be open to hear what he might say in response. Then perhaps we may discover the next step that God is asking us to take.